Fiona – what a champ!!

23rd April 2018

Blatantly nothing to do with farming but she deserves it!!

We had a great but exceptionally hot day at the London Marathon yesterday, at times I did think it would have been easier running it than trying to haul Mother-in Law around various points of the route. Hats off to anyone who completed the course as it really was scorchio.

Fi was magnificent and made it all look easy apart from falling over Chris Evans (Radio 2 DJ) whilst trying to cheer him up at mile 22!

As ever it’s the weather... fantastic last week on the farm after all that rain. We were flat out sowing, spraying (for foliar diseases) and fertilising (giving the plant the food it needs whilst growing so rapidly)

Our Autumn sown crops have really motored through the growth stages having been relatively dormant with their heads down throughout the wettest spring for many a year. They now look very well and full of potential (farmer speak for they might do quite well come harvest with luck, weather and a bit of husbandry over the next 4-5 months)

The spring sown crops that went in 3 weeks ago are struggling, they went into good seedbeds and conditions were ok, then we had over 100mm of rain in a short space of time which caused our clay soils to form a hard nearly impenetrable “cap”. To date about 50% of seeds have burst through but we need to monitor if the remaining 50% are going to able to break through – it really is a case of fingers crossed as there is nothing we can do in farming terms to help them – very frustrating.

We have a new website, which almost unbelievably for a fat fingered farmer I have help build. I say “help” - another farmer has set up a business with the aim of enabling farmers to promote their business and diversifications in a website format that they can edit. He contacted me , I didn’t believe it would be that easy, but it really was.

I would really appreciate any feedback on it – good or bad so if you have a minute or two free please take a browse and let me know your thoughts –

Finally our first Facetime a Farmer happened on Thursday last week! The school rang me just as I entered a field behind the school with my sprayer. The sprayer has a width with the booms (think arms) open of 36m and the field in question has 3 x telegraph poles and a large tree to negotiate all whilst attempting to educate/entertain 90 + Sandon school children!!!!!

I really hope I didn’t come across as to distracted, as ever I received honest feedback from my two children “it was good but you weren’t as funny as you normally are”

A real double-edged sword critique.

Until next time dear reader(s)

Website feedback or any general questions on farming, life or the universe to

Fiona's Time was 4:45 - coming 5000 out of 16000 women runners!

Farming thoughts for February 2018

20th February 2018

As a generalist statement: I hate February.

It’s wet, cold and the farm has yet to start to wake up. Lots of mud and the blasted pigeons WILL NOT leave our oilseed crop alone, however many fireworks I let loose at them or gas bangers I set up. Bella has been helping me (on the sunny days I hasten to add!) and as ever with her she manages to add a touch of glamour to an otherwise mundane job. She really is incredibly (proud parent alert) insightful and comes out with things you wouldn’t necessarily imagine from an 8-year-old, combined with Charlie they keep Fi and I on our toes in so many ways, mostly all for the good.

Both children take a huge interest in the farm and business generally and are never short in offering an opinion (I have no idea where they get this from!!) which is great because it would be nice to think that one or both will play a role in its future stewardship. Farming was once very much the domain of the male sibling but these days there is absolutely no reason why a female cannot run the whole show, and many do within the industry. In fact, our union, the NFU is about to elect its first ever female President at possibly one of the most turbulent times since the Corn Laws were introduced in 1815. Her leadership and the ability of our Union to fight the farming corner is going to be essential if some very hard times are to be avoided in the lead up to and implementation of Brexit, in whatever form that may take.

I am adopting the “semi-ostrich” approach regarding Brexit.

We are trying to make the farming element of our business as streamlined and efficient as possible whilst propping it up with all the other things we do with commercial property and the amenity business. Planning beyond that is, in my opinion, a bit pointless as heaven only knows what/if is going to happen.

I know this seems a rather ignorant way of approaching it but am I alone in feeling rather helpless as far as politics are concerned? How much as an individual or even an organisation can you influence politician’s decision making and agendas?

Hopefully the NFU with Minette Batters (new lady leader) and whoever is in Government will steer us in the direction that can enable farmers to farm and provide food security for us a nation whilst making sure any payments made to us are fair and proportionate to all the other aspects within the country that need funding to survive.

Trying to enhance children’s understanding of where and how their food is produced I am hoping to link up with Sandon School (best junior school in Hertfordshire bar none!) with an initiative called Facetime a Farmer! The idea is that once a month the school facetime me on the farm during assembly and my ugly mug comes up on the screen and we have a chat about what’s happening on the farm and a wander around showing the children what I’m up to – what on earth can possibly go wrong!! I have been told in no uncertain terms by the kids that I must not embarrass them, no pressure there then.

On the commercial lets we are looking to buy two whopping great diesel generators to provide electricity in the event of the ever more regular power cuts we have suffered from over the winter. The plan is to buy these in conjunction with our tenants so that they can be guaranteed a constant power supply. It costs them a small fortune when the electricity fails through no fault of our own, and when you are an employer of dozens of people all of who’s productivity is dictated by the use of computers things get expensive quickly. So, another step towards Hyde Hall’s self-sufficiency push is on the cards – we will be off the grid before you know it!!

Anyway, role on March with sunshine, growing crops and skylarks a plenty!

Questions, questions and more questions please to